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Master of Design Administration (MDA)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time blended learning

Course options See other modes of study
Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

The aim of this programme is to provide students with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the management and legal aspects of design, and the skills necessary to successfully administer the procurement of design services and building projects.


Unique focus on design management

With a unique focus on design management, provides the understanding and skills necessary to administer building procurement from inception to occupation.


Current topics

Addresses current topics of key interest to construction professionals, including cutting edge procurement arrangements.


Acclaimed research expertise

Based on acclaimed research expertise within the Welsh School of Architecture and led by Professor Sarah Lupton; a well-known expert and author of books on specialist topics relevant to the course.


Study while you work

Study while you work in practice; this course is taught by blended learning, using a wide range of innovative delivery methods.


Small cohort

Benefit from a small cohort size, group working and peer review.


Variety of assessment methods

A wide variety of assessment methods including written assignments, videos and webinars. There are no examinations.

The Master of Design Administration (MDA) aims to equip graduates with the expertise necessary for the successful administration and management of the design process in the procurement of buildings, from inception to occupation. It is intended to fulfil the growing need for experts in design management, working within consultancies, or in contracting or specialist contractor firms, or in client bodies.

The programme combines management and legal aspects of procurement, with a unique focus on design aspects, addressing current topics of key interest to construction professionals.

It is taught through blended learning (a combination of distance learning methods and on-site courses) and is undertaken while you are working in practice. A wide range of distance learning teaching methods are used; including webinars and online, a programme blog and discussion boards. Course material will be available in the form of detailed course notes, wikis, and pre-recorded video presentations. You will be supported by regular online tutorials and provided with detailed feedback on all course assignments.

The distance learning element is normally supplemented by on-site courses of two to four days, although for 20/21 is it anticipated that these will be run on-line. They will include advanced seminars given by leading experts. These will normally be interactive and involve group workshops, which are designed to encourage you to share experience and knowledge gained in practice.

This programme is taught by well-known experts and maintains strong links with industry, which ensures that the course encompasses current topics of direct relevance to those involved in procuring construction projects, and managing the design process.

The MDA is intended for those who have a degree in a design, construction or building management field, for example architects, engineers, contractors and client representatives. All those registered on the course would normally be in employment, with several years’ experience, but may be looking for promotion to a more senior design management position, or perhaps to set up their own firm.

Master of Design Administration students doing group work
People in the industry respect it if you’ve been studying alongside work. Having Sarah to learn from was great. She knows all the answers and has so much experience of contract law and how practices work – there’s no one better to be learning from. She is very well respected in the industry; in my practice we always get out Sarah’s books for reference!I felt like I was learning things on the course that were of direct benefit to my work. It’s easy to get involved in your studies when you know you’re going to use it every day. Having the short courses means that you get to shut out the day job for a week, really focus and then go back to the day job and think – I’ve just learnt the answer to that problem we had two weeks ago, and share it around the office.
Chloe Sheward

Where you'll study

Welsh School of Architecture

We aim to make the world a better place through contextually sensitive, sustainable and beautiful architecture.

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  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4430
  • MarkerKing Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB

Admissions criteria

Academic requirements 

Typically, you will need to have either: 

  • a 2:2 honours degree in a relevant discipline related to the built environment such as architecture, contracting, engineering, facilities management, or others related to the construction industry
  • a university-recognised equivalent academic qualification
  • or at least three years’ full-time equivalent relevant professional experience, such as in building design, the construction industry, or as a client of the construction industry, evidenced by a reference(s). This should include experience of managing or liaising with a multi-disciplinary team, either internal to the firm or comprised of representatives of various firms.

English Language requirements

IELTS with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all other subskills, or an accepted equivalent. 

Other essential requirements 

You will also need to provide a personal statement which includes your reasons for studying this programme and any experience with issues related to the administration and management of the design process within your previous studies or professional career. 

If you wish to apply for an exemption on some modules, you must also supply evidence that you are a registered architect who has recently completed an ARB prescribed Part 3 course, or evidence that you are a construction professional who is registered in their profession and have an equivalent qualification.

Application deadline 

We allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis, so we recommend you apply as early as possible. 

Selection process 

We will review your application and if you meet the entry requirements, we will make you an offer. 

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements.

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

This is a full-time blended learning programme taught over 1 year for a total of 180 credits. The taught stage is 120 credits followed by a 60 credit dissertation. All modules in the taught stage are worth 20 credits.

This programme is normally undertaken while you are in a relevant employment setting, and much of the professional experience will contribute to learning.  You are required to find your own employment location, usually before the course begins, such as an architects’ practice, or an approved construction industry firm, or within a client body. The work should be of a sufficiently high quality so that it directly relates to the subject matter of the course, provides material on which coursework can be based, and contributes to the acquisition of discipline specific skills.

The programme will include around 60-75 hours of live on-line events. You will also need to undertake private study on a regular basis in order to complete the various elements of coursework.

As a rough guide, for a full-time student at least three days per week of work experience should contribute directly to the learning experience, and at least 16 hours per week should be set aside for study time (these amounts would be halved for part time students).

We recommend that you discuss the commitment with your employers, including making arrangements to attend online events and for further study leave as is necessary. Depending on your work and personal commitments, you should consider whether the part-time programme might be more appropriate.


The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2022/23 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2022.

You will complete all modules in one academic year and undertake your dissertation during the summer.  The modules completed are: Industry Context, Professional Services, Construction Contracts, Design Delivery, Project Delivery and International Procurement, all 20 credits.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Industry ContextART20720 credits
Construction ContractsART20820 credits
Professional ServicesART20920 credits
Design DeliveryART21120 credits
Project DeliveryART21220 credits
International ProcurementART21320 credits
DissertationART21460 credits

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

You will be taught through a wide range of distance learning methods. If practicable, and after consultation with the cohort, some on-site events may be arranged for 2021, but at this point it is not anticipated that these will be more than two days.

Course material will be available in the form of detailed course notes, wikis, and pre-recorded video presentations. There will be regular live-streamed events, including webinars and on-line workshops given by leading experts, and a blog updating you on course events and current industry developments relevant to the course.

There will be regular contact throughout the year. Each module will have two days of on-line events with at least one lunch time webinar, meaning that there will be one event at least every two weeks. This will be supplemented by discussion boards relating to specific topics, regular written feedback on your work, and individual and group on-line tutorials.  You will be encouraged to maintain a reflective journal on your professional experience, which will inform the assignments and the tutorials. All events are designed to encourage you to share experience and knowledge gained in practice. Recordings of material will be available on-line through the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central.

Due to the nature of this course, you are responsible for reading any emails sent by module tutors or announcements made through Learning Central on a frequent basis.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a range of course work formats, including structured assignments, case studies, essays, pre-recorded videos, webinars and an adjudicator decision (see module descriptions for more details). There are no examinations or class tests.


How will I be supported?

You will be allocated a personal tutor when you enrol. A personal tutor is there to support you during your studies, help you reflect on your performance on the course and advise you on study techniques, module selection and career planning (in conjunction with the University’s Career Service). You should have regular meetings through Collaborate (the University online package for virtual seminars, and one-to one or group meetings) with your personal tutor to ensure that you are fully supported.

You will normally receive at least three individual tutorials, using Collaborate (as above)

All modules content will be shared via the University’s Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central, where you can access discussion forums and find course materials including recordings of lectures and links to related materials.

Cardiff University also offers a wide range of online support services which are easily accessible to our distance learning students, such as counselling and wellbeing, financial and careers advisors, the international office and the Student Union.


Formative Feedback

Formative feedback is feedback that does not contribute to progression or degree classification decisions.  The goal of formative feedback is to improve your understanding and learning before you complete your summative assessment. More specifically, formative feedback helps you to:

  • identify your strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work;
  • help staff to support you and address the problems identified with targeted strategies for improvement.

Formative feedback will be given on all assignments in the form of written feedback with guide grades

Summative Feedback

Summative feedback is feedback that contributes to progression or degree classification decisions.  The goal of summative assessment is to indicate how well you have succeeded in meeting the intended learning outcomes of a Module or Programme and will enable you to identify any action required in order to improve.  All feedback should directly link to the Module grading / assessment criteria.

Summative feedback on this course will be given on all assignments except for those submitted immediately before the final assessment period.

Summative assessment is made through a variety of course work assignments, depending on the module (there are no examinations or class tests). These include a feasibility study, essays, structured assignments, and case studies, as set out in the module descriptions.

What skills will I practise and develop?

The Learning outcomes for this Programme describe what you will be able to do as a result of your study at Cardiff University. They will help you to understand what is expected of you and academic staff will focus on precisely what they want you to achieve within each Module.

Knowledge & Understanding:

On completing the Programme you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Demonstrate a systematic and in depth understanding of the methods used to regulate development, the construction industry and the provision of design services within and outside the UK
  • Critically evaluate and compare simple and complex procurement systems, including collaborative and multi-party arrangements, assessing their implications for the role of consultants, including design managers
  • Demonstrate a systematic and in depth understanding of the relevance of design management to contemporary practice and the potential role of design managers in delivering client objectives.
  • Critically evaluate procedures and tools for managing design firms, design teams, and the design process throughout all stages of a project.

Intellectual Skills:

On completing the Programme you will be able to:

  • Identify and appraise sources of information (including current research work), relating to the construction industry within and outside the UK, to determine their authority and reliability.
  • Undertake a detailed analysis of the purpose, role, and relative and combined impact of selected regulatory instruments on the design and feasibility of building projects.
  • Construe the individual and combined effect of key terms in professional services and construction contracts on the extent of design responsibility and level of risk assumed by those involved.
  • Critically analyse key methods for coordinating design development prior to construction including design team integration, early supply chain involvement, and collaborative working at the interface of demand and supply
  • Critically analyse key methods for ensuring delivery of project objectives during construction, including risk management, change control, quality monitoring and handover procedures.
  • Analyse and compare the roles of contract administrator and project manager as delineated in a range of contrasting contract types, including their duties and powers relating to achievement of quality, time and cost targets.

Professional Practical Skills:

On completing the Programme you will be able to:

  • Undertake a comprehensive analysis of current enablers and constraints (including institutional, legal and economic) relevant to the feasibility of a proposed development project.
  • Assess the design services required for a project, and propose with justification suitable terms of appointment that lead to clear and appropriate allocation of design team responsibilities
  • Propose and justify management strategies that would lead to effective design team coordination and efficient management of staff and resources,
  • Propose and justify procurement and contractual arrangements that would enable client design and quality priorities to be upheld throughout all stages of a project.
  • Evaluate complex situations, including construction disputes, and exercise independent judgement in evaluating and reaching decisions regarding those situations. Justify the decisions clearly and logically.
  • Demonstrate the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On completing the Programme you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks in a professional context.
  • Propose appropriate methodologies for tackling a selected research topic; plan and execute the work necessary to further understanding in that field
  • Critically analyse complex professional and contractual processes, comparing real-life arrangements with theory and recommended good practice.
  • Justify and communicate the results of a study clearly and in a manner which would be accessible to a developer, to professionals and to other researchers, using a range of formats and media, including essays, reports, and on-line presentations.


Tuition fees for 2022 entry

Students from the UK

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £10,200 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national, unless you qualify for UK fee status, tuition fees will be in line with the fees charged for international students. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Students from the rest of the world (international)

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £23,450 £1,000

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs

The University will cover any additional costs that are essential for you to complete the programme.  For this reason, you will be provided with a small financial allocation as required.  The details of which will be provided by your Programme Lead throughout the academic year.



Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

What the student should provide:

  • You will need access to a computer with word processing software and access to the internet in order to study on this distance learning course. We recommend that you use a laptop, which you can travel with when you come to the School for tuition. A USB or hard drive to store your work is also recommended.
  • You will be required to be in employment before you enrol on the course, and also be able to fund travel and accommodation expenses for the short courses you attend at the School.
  • You may also wish to purchase some of the key texts for the course. Although the texts required for study are available in the School’s library, and many of these are available in electronic downloadable format, there are benefits to owning your personal copy of key works so that you may access them whenever they wish.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.

Career prospects

Students who undertake this course are required to already be in employment. However, this course is designed to enhance their professional development, and aid in career progression.


UK Government master’s funding

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2021 or later, you may be able to apply for UK Government postgraduate funding to support your study at Cardiff University.

Next steps


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HESA data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2020. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18, published by HESA in June 2020.